We are very pleased to present "Lull", the second offering by Spell and follow-up to their 2011 debut "Hex" which was also released on Panospria to critical acclaim. Once again, Spell combines Kristen Roos’ textures and rhythms with Prophecy Sun's improvised lyrics and vocalizations.
April 11, 2013 Subject:
reviews from Greyowl Point, 6 Days from Tomorrow, BeatRoute, Discorder, and I Want To Put Something In Your Ear
This is an EP that took me places – walking around late at night, freshly fallen autumn leaves illuminated only by the dim glow of street lamps and the headlights of a car in the distance. Watching the approach of two figures, made into dark silhouettes by the headlights behind them. Looking over my shoulder, full of the unease that only comes late at night with a soundtrack that makes you feel like the heroine of a haunting horror film.
Spell’s Lull EP is five slow-burning, darkly atmospheric electronic songs. The vocals are a subdued kind of operatic (and also evidently entirely improvised). Restrained, but with fully rounded, confident and clear delivery. “Don’t force, don’t resist, rise to this,” she intones in the first track. The release on whole is best experienced that way – give yourself over to it completely, get lost in its melodic push-and-pull.
The most unconventional and interesting musical turn takes place in the last two songs of the album, “Lullaby” and “Look Out”. Both songs are a gradient of tempo, speeding up and slowing down multiple times within each piece. These fluctuations create something of an adrenaline rush. Faster and faster instrumentals overlaid with a warning to “look out” evokes the feeling of being pursued, chased through the darkness by something unseen.
The combination of hazy beats with spooky intonations makes listening to Lull a journey. At times creepy and others beautiful, the main word to describe this EP would have to be engrossing. Take it for a spin and get caught up in its world.
Before I begin, I should take this opportunity to make an apology. I may well have claimed in a previous post that my possession of Canada-based facts was limited to my knowing that their currency had a picture of a duck on it. I now know this to be wrong, and what I thought was a duck is actually a loon – a majestic creature which looks a bit like a duck, but which isn’t. I apologise to Canada, I apologise to loons, and I also apologise to ducks as I am unsure who is more offended by this faux pas, although I suspect it may be the former as a present I sent to a friend of mine (also in Vancouver. Is the rest of Canada deserted?) arrived with something missing out of the package. Bah.
Right, good. This is the latest offering from Coastie (if that’s the wrong term for Vancouvery types, blame the Internet) prOphecy sun‘s eclectic body of work, here as half of Spell alongside fellow artist Kristen Roos to come up with an EP of five gently spooky songs.
Coming out of the leftest of fields, Lull occupies that pleasantly throbbing part of low-end electronica that makes wearing headphones such fun. Lightly glitchy percussion underpins the largely ambient backing for Ms sun’s voice which floats over the top of each track, providing a complimentary human edge to Kristen’s carefully assembled machine accompaniment. Guided Highways provides a great insight into their working relationship, coming across akin to Boards of Canada covering Angelo Badalamenti, or possibly vice versa. The latter name does evoke certain imagery in the music here, as there is a definite Lynchian spirit at play here.
Home provides more room for subtle disquiet; sultry nursery rhyming over an echoing snare drum and a delicate Very Little Else that is utterly captivating. There’s something in these songs that do remind me of something else from a bygone era: a snippet of OMD experimentalism here; a sense of Propaganda’s ZTT exploration there; something ever-so-slightly Björkish in the way that parts of Lullaby is vocalised; and an indefinable otherness that I can almost grasp but that vanishes just as I think I’ve cornered it in my subconscious.
There’s much to like in this shortish, dreamlike collection, which is Spell’s second venture. Best played late at night through headphones, Spell have come up with a seductive and ethereal record that will no doubt invite some very strange dreams, especially if you’re already well on the way to drifting off while the cautionary Look Out is still playing, transforming from ghostly warning to the slight panic of its closure. Kristen and prOphecy’s contributions either merge seamlessly into, or wrap themselves around, each other to create a whole that seems to slow everything down while its playing and feel as if it’s passed in an instant as soon as it finishes.
With the release of their second EP, the Vancouver-based electronic duo, Spell, delves into a realm of dark simplicity. With all songs done in one take, Kristen Roos and PrOphecy Sun demonstrate their strong grip on the use of minimalistic sound and complexity.
The album slowly opens with the celestial chant “Don’t Resist.” Throughout this track, PrOphecy Sun’s sleepy voice drips with lucid and ethereal emptiness which gives off an overwhelming sense of peace. This doesn’t seem to last, even though you wish it would, as the tone of the album takes a sharp turn into the powerfully hollow “Guided Highways.” The vocals echo sharply through the simple beats, creating the feeling of being completely isolated in the world. The album moves on gloomily until a bright spark appears in the track “Lullaby,” with its slightly more cheerful tempo. This song recognizes that they are right where they want to be. Once more, the mood changes when the duo’s somber inner psyche is drawn out with the haunting ending tracks, “Look Out.” Almost like a warning to the listener, this song is a chilling acceptance of hopelessness and despair. Spell creates an atmosphere that toys with your emotions and takes you through a dream from which you won’t want to wake up.
Vancouver witch-wave duo Kristen Roos and Prophecy Sun, collectively known as Spell, conjure sensations like Rorschach tests, with which we can only grope at meanings, and frisk with postmodernism that brims with fragmentation and prior truths, while eschewing pretension. And they do it all in five tracks on Lull, their spacey sophomore EP, a sparkling follow up to last year’s hypnotic Hex.
Refining their reflective ephemera, Lull’s aural collages use elements of ambient, psychedelia, found sounds, and other choppy oddball items with art-damaged audacity. If any of this seems self-important, rest assured, it isn’t. Mashing the sublime with the recognizable, Spell is eclectic and art-chic. It’s smart, but has incoherence and like a lot of music in this vein it begets a certain trainspotting mindset (recalling empyrean acts like Delirium, His Name Is Alive, and Ida), but more than that Lull gently tugs at ideas while fitting pieces in a dissonant fantasia.
Sun’s soft whispers on “Don’t Resist,” coupled with Roos’ glitches and tweaks are a revelation of home recording genius, both stylish and stable. “Guided Highways” expands on the aesthetic, driving down eerie, nocturnal spaces rescuing lost souls by placing auditory oddities into a new context in a fashion like avant-garde Beat Generation collaborators and “cut-up” popularizers William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. In fact, it was Burroughs who once suggested that, “You have to cut up the past to find the future,” and this may be a maxim close to Spell’s generous tenderness.
Roos’ sacrosanct sound collage constructions and Sun’s haunting cries are very free-form, and this may be a blatantly non-commercial manoeuvre. Sure, it’s also intriguing and helps to broaden one’s palette. Like emerging from a musty-smelling labyrinth to midnight radiance in a winter garden glimpsed only by a select and adventurous few.
Lull ascends through ironies, hallucinations, despair and renewal, to make an EP that’s easy to listen to, yet full of challenges. In this mosaic of bleakness and beauty, Spell mesmerizes.